Johnson doubt for Sunderland Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill will make a late decision on winger Adam Johnson ahead of the Barclays Premier League clash with Wigan. The 25-year-old was used as a substitute in the 2-0 Capital One Cup victory at MK Dons on Tuesday evening after recovering from a thigh problem, but did not train on Thursday and although fresh scans showed no further damage, he will be assessed on Friday.
Defender Carlos Cuellar and midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who both missed the cup game with hamstring injuries, have returned to training and could figure, but skipper Lee Cattermole starts a three-match ban following the fifth red card of his Black Cats career and Phil Bardsley (ankle) and Wes Brown (knee) are still short of match fitness. O'Neill is confident there is more to come from his new-look strike-force despite seeing summer signing Steven Fletcher get off to a blistering start. The 25-year-old, a #12million acquisition from Wolves, has announced his arrival on Wearside in style with four goals in his three Barclays Premier League games to date, and he will hope to add to that tally when Wigan head for the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
However, Fletcher is the only member of the Black Cats squad to have scored a league goal so far this season and while O'Neill is delighted with his return so far, he does not want his team to develop the same kind of over-reliance on the Scot which predecessor Steve Bruce's men had with Darren Bent. The manager said: "I wouldn't want to wish that on anyone for the whole of the season, but he's an excellent finisher. "He has had a great start to his career here, which I am delighted about. It makes things a wee bit easier to settle in, and he has done so very, very well. "But eventually, we will need other players to score goals and I am sure in the course of time, they will do. "But making judgments after just four games might be a wee bit rash."
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez will be without defender Antolin Alcaraz and striker Franco Di Santo. Alcaraz is still seven to 10 days away from a return to full fitness with a groin injury while the game at the Stadium of Light is expected to be too soon for Di Santo, who has a calf problem. Following Tuesday's 4-1 win over West Ham in the Capital One Cup, Martinez could be tempted to give a start to double goalscorer Mauro Boselli and other fringe players, after he announced the competition for places was open. The Latics boss expects a tough meeting against O'Neill's side, who are a game down after the postponement of their match with Reading and still in search of their first league win.
Martinez believes Sunderland will be hungry to claim their first three points and expects an open game on Wearside. "I know that Sunderland are a really difficult team to play against. We have all seen that they have been very close to getting a good run of results. "For one reason or another they haven't been getting that so that makes them a bit more dangerous. "They've got that hunger to get a positive result. Their signings in the [transfer] window gave them a step up in quality and gave them a different dimension. "We know they are going to be well organised. It is extremely difficult to play against them and break them down and they've got some extraordinary counter attacking football. "All in all we respect this Sunderland side and we know how difficult it is going to be. Both sides are in a similar position, desperate to get a positive result or a win and I think it will be a more open game that you will see at any other stage of the season."